The mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) has a unique habit of evading predators. It runs for only a couple of yards and freezes, perhaps camouflaged in a clump of sagebrush. If a predator continues to pursue, the rabbit hops away in a semi-circular path to try and trick them. In this moment, I watch a cottontail frozen still, hiding within a circle of sage—eyes open wide and ears erect. We seem to have an agreement. The rabbit won’t move and I won’t pursue. But the moment I choose to continue walking, the rabbit quickly races in a semicircle and disappears into the landscape like a fleeting apparition.
When my mind freezes and fixates upon a thought, it makes no attempt to camouflage itself. It is right here in all its glory, immovable and inflexible. If I indulge the notion or try to push it away, it becomes even more fixed. The rabbit knows how to survive by choosing when to freeze and when to disappear. It is a natural instinct. Humans seem to have forgotten their original instinctual nature.
Fortunately, we can reclaim our natural mind through various forms of meditation. For instance, the creation and completion stage practice helps us remember how things effortlessly arise and dissolve. We train to become more aligned with this natural awareness rather than fixating on the frozen, inflexible, habits of mind. Even though these habits have no actual existence, we believe in them. With practice, we become skillful at noticing when we are fixated and are able to let go—noticing how everything effortlessly disappears or self-liberates.
Another teaching from a mountain cottontail is in the way it eats its own feces. It produces both wet and dry pellets. The dry pellets are left to decay but the wet pellets are ingested to preserve moisture and nutrients that would otherwise be lost. It is a matter of survival in the harsh arid landscape of the high desert. I often wish I could re-digest some things that have come spewing out of my mouth. Imagine if we humans could recycle our bullshit. Maybe we would be less divisive and help everyone survive equally! (Please excuse the scatalogical humor:)
Every time I think of the little mountain cottontail, I smile and recall the teachings from a bunny bodhisattva. May he or she have a long rabbit life and continue to trick any predator lurking in the shadows. May all bunnys have happiness and the cause of happiness.